Foam rollers are lightweight, durable polyethylene foam cylinders. They are about 6 inches in diameter and up to 4 feet long. Beginners often use a half-cylinder foam roller that is flat on one side. Once you master using a foam roller, try the round roller for a challenging workout. You can use foam rollers in a number of exercise workouts, such as stretching, strength training and balance exercises. You can focus on improving your flexibility, balance and strength.
A foam roller can help relax tense muscles and improve flexibility of the upper body. Exercising using a roller can help loosen up tight chest, shoulder, arm and upper back muscles. You perform a rotator cuff release by lying on the floor and placing a foam roller under one shoulder. Move your body back and forth across the roller to massage and relax the shoulder muscles. You can stretch your chest muscles by placing a foam roller underneath your upper back. Cross your arms across your chest and gently lower your head and upper shoulders back to expand your chest upward. Stretch your arms back over your head to deepen the stretch.
Massage and exercise your glutes, or buttocks, by placing a foam roller underneath your left hip. Support the weight of your body with your left forearm on the floor. Keep your legs stretched out but relaxed. Place the fingertips of your right hand on the floor between your forearm and the roller for additional balance. Roll your body forward and back across the roller, and then switch sides. Exercise your hip flexor muscles to improve hip joint flexibility by placing a foam roller under your upper thighs and pelvis. Begin in a face-down position and support your body weight with your hands. Rotate your hips until your left hip is supported by the roller and your right hip is lifted upward off the roller. Stretch your legs out and hold them off the floor about 3 to 4 inches. Roll back and forth across the foam roller.
You can incorporate a foam roller into your current Pilates exercise routine. To work your hamstrings and core, place a roller under the middle of your torso while lying on the floor face-down. Support your upper body with your forearms on the floor underneath your shoulders. Bend your knees and bring your heels toward your butt. Keep your ankles together throughout the exercise. Lift your lower body toward the ceiling. Hold the position and then relax. Straighten your legs with your ankles together. Lift both legs up toward the ceiling as far as you can and hold the position. Relax and repeat for two to three repetitions.
Improve your balance by standing and walking on a foam roller. Place a foam roller on the floor. Stand on the middle of the roller in your bare feet. Squeeze your abdominal muscles to help stabilize your body as you balance on the roller. Hold on to a sturdy chair or table if you need help keeping your balance. Take one step to the left with your left foot and follow with your right. Walk sideways two steps in each direction from the middle to improve balance. Try to keep your back straight and your head in a neutral, or forward looking, position.
Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.